It is significant that Christian spirituality cannot rightly be understood as an individual endeavor, but the Christian Church provides a sacramental glimpse into the nature of God's own communion of unity and diversity. Christian theologians insist that not only does the Church point backward to the inner life of the Trinity, but forward as a glimpse of the Kingdom of God in which all creatures will be gathered in unity and love.
Christian spirituality involves practices that engage us in partnership with the Spirit, and awakening and empowering us for love of God, each other, and creation. A theological term for this partnership is "perichoresis" or "to dance with," which suggests the synergy of a dance in which partners are mutually transformed. Christian spiritual practices that foster this partnership fall into two general overlapping categories: way-of-life practices and contemplative practices.
Christians understand living in partnership with the Spirit as organizing their lives according to the vision of human life and relationships that Jesus illuminated. Christian spirituality involves deliberate attention to such mundane matters as how we eat, relate in community, make choices, create art, and seek justice, and how we treat strangers-in light of the story and vision of Jesus. Such practices often prompt ways of knowing and doing at variance from the dominant culture. For example, contemporary culture includes a hurried style of life that encourages us to drive through fast food establishments, greet the cashier as a functionary, and devour our food in isolation while we drive to our next appointment. Yet for Jesus, eating meals was an opportunity to offer gratitude to the Creator, to acknowledge those who grew and prepared the food, and to invite friends and enemies to share food with him. For Jesus, taking food was a reconciling act that encouraged love, mutuality, and unity.
All Christian practices have similar reconciling dimensions that counter habits of objectifying and using others for selfish purposes. Spiritual practices in the Christian tradition do not simply foster individual love of God, but also involve those that promote the reconciliation, completion, and glory of all creation. While some limit their discussion of spirituality to practices of prayer, the practices that connect us in partnership with the Spirit include a range of lifestyle practices, such as corporate worship, justice seeking, hospitality to strangers, Sabbath keeping, creative expression, theological reflection, feasting, fasting, discernment, and care of the earth. These lifestyle practices are among those that the Christian Church has historically embraced as able to keep us close to God's enlivening Spirit, enhance our love of God and neighbor, and draw forth the fullest expression of our individual and corporate humanity.
Of particular importance for Christians who seek to connect their lives to the Spirit's movement in the world are practices of prayer and contemplation, in which responsiveness to God, others, and self is strengthened. Practices of contemplation range from silent or centering prayer-the use of repeated phrases intended to draw the practitioner into their inner depths where God speaks, to lectio divina or "holy reading" of scripture intended not primarily for rational understanding, but to allow God to speak through the texts. Contemplative practice denotes a practice of focused attention or "deep gazing"-whether focused on God, self, or the stranger-and includes the core assumption that the highest act of love is not in doing, but in truly seeing the other. Seeing others "as they are" opens us to profound respect and compassion, through which we are transformed, but which also creates conditions for their transformation.